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How should we train our teachers?

3 February 2020

1 . Trainees are time-consuming, but rewarding

This week we’re devoting the blog to teacher training. For some of you, training may have happened a long time ago, but most of you teach in schools that have at least one student who is training right now. (Of those teaching in private schools, half of you still have a trainee teacher).

Looking after a trainee teacher can be quite an undertaking. Of the 6-in-10 of you who have been an ITT mentor before, just over half said you found it rewarding. But half also said it was very time-consuming. Only about a third (1-in-3) found it useful to have someone else teaching your lessons for a while!

Why are teachers not pleased about having time away from their class? We regularly see that teachers put their relationships with pupils at the forefront. Developing those relationships is hard and time-consuming, but teachers really believe they matter, and so tend to be protective about having time with their pupils.

2. Getting rejected from training routes

Many of you suffered knock-backs on the way to becoming a teacher.

While the majority of you only applied to one single teacher training course – among those who applied to more than one, some of you got rejected from several courses. For example, of the people who applied to six or more courses, only 32% got in everywhere – the rest were all turned down by at least one provider, and in some cases up to FOUR training providers.

Those who admitted to getting rejected from courses include some of our most illustrious teacher-bloggers who are regularly featured on Teacher Tapp.

I got rejected by Teach First and by the IOE. Utterly devastated at the time, and if Herts hadn’t have accepted me I was going to call it quits and do something else. All works out.— Adam Boxer (@adamboxer1) February 2, 2020

Of course, it is hard for an interviewer to work out if you’ll be a successful teacher. One of their favourite questions is to ask you to recall your own favourite lesson at school. It’s interesting that when we ask you this, primary teachers tend to recall primary lessons and secondary teachers tend to recall secondary lessons.

Does it matter which school you train in? Since many of you go onto teach in the school where you trained, we think it might.

We therefore asked where you completed your NQT year. Obviously, all Teach First teachers stay in the same school since that is the design of the programme. But half of those on other school-based routes did too, as did 16% of you who followed the PGCE route.

Having student teachers train in your school may be time-consuming and not that useful for their mentors – but it’s certainly a good recruitment tool!

3. If you could choose a route again…

How would you most want to train to be a teacher if you had to start over again?

We gave you three choices of two-year training programmes. One apprenticeship model with a fairly low wage and teaching load (similar to school-based routes), one employment model with higher wage and teaching load (similar to Teach First), and one university model with placements followed by year 2 employment.

You were very split in which model appealed, but the employment route won over 39% of you, followed by the apprenticeship route (34%), with the university route the least appealing (27%).

Is the route you find appealing related to the route you originally took? Yes! 80% of ex-Teach-Firsters would take that sort of route again, and very few would want to take a university course who did not take it the first time around.

To paraphrase an adage, better the teacher training you know than the one you don’t!

4. Meanwhile, in Ghana…

We’re currently trialling Teacher Tapp in Ghana! Although our panel of respondents is currently too small to generalise, they still provide curious points of contrast with the UK.

Teacher Training is a great example. In Ghana, all prospective teachers sit a ‘Teaching Licence’ exam after acquiring their teaching qualification. The exam is a series of three written papers: Literacy, Numeracy and ‘Essential Skills’. Literacy and Numeracy are similar to the Skills Tests sat by teachers in the UK, while Essential Skills covers general pedagogy and school policies in Ghana. Here are a couple of example questions from the recent Essential Skills assessments –

Mr Fiifi wants to use alternative methods of assessment. Which of the following will he not likely use?

  • A. Multiple Choice Test
  • B. Reflective Journal Writing
  • C. Oral Presentation
  • D. Developing Portfolios

Which theory operates on the “stimulus-response principle”, which means all behaviours are caused by external stimuli?

  • A. Contextual theory
  • B. Behaviourist theory
  • C. Cognitive theory
  • D. Constructivist theory

Results from the exams are published in January of each year, with an average pass rate of 75%. Once a teacher earns their Licence, they’re eligible to apply for jobs at state schools in Ghana.

In the past few years there has been much debate surrounding the License Examination process. Some say it introduces an unnecessary extra step into the qualification process. Commentators also note the exams do not assess classroom competence.

Nonetheless, our Ghana panel largely reported being in favour of the Licensure examinations.

This is similar to England, where 78% of you told us you believed in the importance of all new teachers sitting the Skills Test. Could it be that teachers in Ghana (and England) want new teachers to have an experience equal in difficulty to the one they had to go through in the past? Or is that there’s genuine value in the Licensure Examination? We’ll be polling in the coming weeks to find out more and will share some of the results with you!

Time to revisit any tips you may have missed